Dan’s Top 10 Corners Heading Into the 2015 NFL Season
With offences all squared away in our run of top 10 lists; it’s time to move on to the defences. Over the coming weeks, much like we did on offence we’ll be covering each position, starting with the question that seems to crop up every off-season. Who is the best cornerback in the league?
Of all the lists we’ve written up so far, I’d have to say that this was the toughest to get a read on, with a lot of stats being heavily influenced by the reliance of being part of a decent defensive back duo. As a result a lot of this list will be based on personal opinion which should lead to some pretty interesting combinations when compared to the other lists. We’d love to hear your opinion, so hit us up on twitter!
Anyway let’s get this going.
10) Josh Norman – Carolina Panthers
Josh Norman recovered in a surprising manner from a rough 2013 season. If you look at Norman’s stats alone they’re exceptional, allowing the 3rd fewest completions of any corner in the league. Norman also completed 36 tackles and 11 defensive stops, a stat made more impressive when you look at how rarely the Panthers actually blitzed. So why not higher? Well Norman benefitted greatly from being part of a defence that has a ridiculous amount of talent on it. Even the other corner, Benwikere was a potential candidate for this list, not to mention the amazing talent of the front 7, which saw Kuechly and Davis have yet another exceptional season. Norman had a great season, his best so far in fact, I just don’t believe he could have done it without the supporting cast.
9) Brandon Flowers – San Diego Chargers
Flowers doesn’t have the stats of Josh Norman, but unlike Norman, he wasn’t part of an elite defence. Flowers initially had help in the form of rookie Jason Verrett, however Verrett went down injured six games into the season, leaving Flowers as the standout talent at corner. Flowers stats are slightly padded out by the lack of talent that he went up against at receiver throughout the season, playing the Jets, Jags, Raiders, Chiefs and Rams. However he made up for this with 46 tackles through the season and 15 defensive stops. Flowers had a good season, but with the right improvements on defence, he could really benefit.
8) Brent Grimes- Miami Dolphins
Grimes really found his form towards the end of the season, making a number of catches that would have made more headlines if not for a certain Giants receiver. Grimes did more than just provide footage for highlight reels. Of corners with over 1000 snaps, he was the only player to allow less than 160 yards after catch. He also racked up 54 tackles and 18 defensive stops. Grimes like a number of other corners on this list benefitted from an immense amount of talent surrounding him, which has only been added to in the off-season. Grimes could and perhaps should be considered a top 5 cornerback on this list next year.
7) Patrick Peterson- Arizona Cardinals
Peterson didn’t have the best 2014, which must burn considering some of the declarations he made during the off-season. However his talent is still incredibly prominent. We could talk about his ability in the return game, an area where he could currently be the best in the league, but that’s not what we judge corners on. As I previously stated Peterson’s stats weren’t great last year, but really this is his first ‘less-than-brilliant’ year, with previous accomplishments earning him a chance to re-emerge as one of the best corners in the game. More important than any stats though is his ability to marshall the secondary. Last year the Cards were lining up with 5, 6, even 7 defensive backs regularly, using them in a multitude of ways, making up for deficiencies in other areas. Peterson stood out as the leader of not just this unit but the defence. So Peterson makes it onto this list, simply for his mere presence improving an entire defence, as well as a good chance he moves back up this list next year.
6) Desmond Trufant- Atlanta Falcons
Nearly every corner on this list at least benefits slightly from at least some talent on defence. With Trufant it is obvious that he was the lone talent on that unit last year, on a team that drastically underperformed. On any team Trufant’s stats would be considered solid. 58 tackles as well as 9 passes defended, shows that he can do it all as a shutdown corner and someone who’s not afraid to tackle. The fact that he did this on one of the league’s worst defences is outstanding. Now Trufant could be a major cog in a more than capable defence, with a head coach who has built up a reputation for seeing corners get big contracts, we could see him move even further up this list. If the Falcons can get some decent play from Alford, this could be a very good duo.
5) Joe Haden- Cleveland Browns
I’ll admit this feels far too low and I think I’ve misread this, but if I was basing this on last season’s performances and how good I think he’ll be on a secondary that didn’t get better, I can’t put him higher. Now that admission is out the way let’s look at how good Haden has been. Haden has been consistently a shining light on the Cleveland defence, although that’s not to say there isn’t talent there. Haden was targeted 5th most of any corner in the league (former Browns corner Buster Skrine was no. 2), whilst only allowing 162 yards, which is the best for any corner who had over 100 targets. Combined with his 71 tackles, it shows that getting away from Haden is problematic. Haden was under a lot pressure last year and yet he still managed to perform, I just think without Skrine he might struggle a bit, unless they can wake up Gilbert.
4) Richard Sherman- Seattle Seahawks
Okay… I’m ready for the comments from the 12s…
Done? Cool I’ll go through why I’ve got him this low.
The tired argument is that he only plays one side… Which is the truth. YES, he’s good at his job, I put him number 4 on this list and YES, he’s an integral piece on this defence, but there is a few things I can’t ignore. As I write this I can’t get the Giants game out of my head where Odell Beckham burned Sherman and he wasn’t alone. Keenan Allen earlier on in the season also had a decent game against him for the Chargers as well as Emmanuel Sanders. As well as a few bad games, I can’t look past how good that entire unit has been for the last couple of years. Being a corner is a lot easier with 2 of the best safeties in the league on your team, as well as a player that is massively underrated in Byron Maxwell (although I still didn’t think him good enough to put him on this list). This season the team lose Maxwell and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, which add to the list of Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner from the previous couple of years. I don’t believe a team can haemorrhage that much talent and still remain as good as they have been.
That being said, he is still one of the smartest players on this list, as well as a perfect combination of size and speed. I also believe there is a reason that some of the best QBs refuse to throw on him, I just don’t believe I saw him have as complete a season as the 3 players above him. But I totally understand why people would think I’m wrong.
3) Derrelle Revis- New York Jets
When Revis Island is finally closed for business, the question will be asked ‘where does he rank among the truly great corners?’, to which right now I would answer at least top 5. Revis received the 12th most snaps last year compared to other cornerbacks and was only targeted 79 times. After a disappointing spell with the Buccaneers, Revis reasserted himself in New England, being an integral player in their Super bowl run and eventually locking himself into yet another blockbuster contract with the Jets, making him not just a shutdown corner, but a savvy businessman. On a new look Jets defence, organised by Todd Bowles, who made full use of his secondary in Arizona, Revis joins a secondary that could very well become one of the league’s best after a disappointing season in 2014. Now on a group of corners featuring Antonio Cromartie and the massively underrated Buster Skrine, not to mention a thoroughly stacked defensive line, Revis could add to his legacy with a monster 2nd stint in New York.
2) Chris Harris Jr- Denver Broncos
When I started researching this I had no idea I’d be putting Harris this high, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s thoroughly deserved. Harris has been consistently one of the most underrated players in the league. Even his entrance into the league was understated, when he joined the Broncos as free agent in 2011. Revis and Sherman get all the press, but neither of them could touch Chris Harris last year, who was statistically the best cornerback in the NFL last year with, zero touchdowns given up on 89 attempts. Harris didn’t even make the NFL top 100, which tells me that even some of the players don’t realise just how good he is. Harris only has 1 mark against him in my opinion, which is that he is on an exceptional secondary, making life a lot easier, but still it’s time to stand up and pay attention to one of the best corners in the league.
1) Vontae Davis- Indianapolis Colts
Vontae Davis being the best corner in the league before I’d spent 2 weeks looking at the position. Now I have though, I still believe he is. I’ve mentioned how good the secondaries are on this list, on top of a lot of the time corners being part of exceptional defences and the Colts were in many ways one of them. The difference with this team for me is that Vontae Davis was a big reason why they managed to be ranked 3rd in yards allowed. Davis was the clear standout player for the Colts defence, something that his stats backup. Davis was targeted 71 times and only allowed 31 completions for a staggering 0 touchdowns. If a receiver did manage to sneak past Davis, they didn’t get far. receivers only managed a total of 119 yards against Davis after the catch, which is just over 3 yards per catch, which is crazy. More importantly than any stat however is simply what I physically saw last year, which is someone playing their position to near perfection, to the extent that he raises the game of everyone on that defence, an area the Colts added to this off season. Davis has all the skills and ability to be mentioned in the same breath as Revis and Sherman, it’s just going to take people standing up and taking notice.
As I mentioned at the start, this was easily the hardest list I’ve had to put together yet with a potential number 1 on the list coming from any of the top 7, so I’ll understand if you read this and have a different opinion. So hit us up and tell us where you think we’ve got it wrong.